Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Saffron Series III: arancine di riso

In Cheese, Egg, Main meals, Rice on August 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm


Continuing with my saffron posts, here is a recipe for a delicious snack/main meal which is very similar to a post I made a while back about suppli, except that here we have the Sicilian variation arancine.

According to Maxine Clark; “These crisp balls, stuffed with leftover meat ragu (or in my case, cheese) are eaten as street food in Sicily. However, when made cocktail snack size, they are perfect to serve with drinks. Unlike making a true risotto, you want to overcook the rice to make it really stick together. The mixture should be very thick before it is cooled and can be made with leftover risotto.”


75g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

150 ml dry white wine

275 risotto rice

900 ml vegetable or chicken stock

8 saffron threads or 1/4 tsp powdered saffron

25g parmesan cheese

1 small egg

250g meat ragu or cheese or some other filling

salt and pepper

oil, for deep frying


100g plain flour

2 large eggs, beaten

125g dired white breadcrumbs


deep fryer


Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and add the onion. Cook gently for 10 minutes until soft and golden but not browned. Pour in the wine and boil hard until reduced and almost disappeared. Stir in the rice and coat with the butter and wine. Add a ladle of stock and add the saffron and simmer, stirring until absorbed. Continue adding the stock until all the stock has been absorbed. The rice should be very tender, thick and golden.

Taste and season well and stir in the parmesan. Lightly whisk the egg and beat in the risotto. Spread out on a plate and let cool completely, about an hour. Take 1 tablespoon cold risotto, and with damp hands spread out onto one palm. Mound a small teaspoon of filling in the centre. Take another tablespoon of risotto and enclose filling. Roll and smooth between hands to form a perfect ball. Alternatively, make a cone shape with a rounded end. Continue until all the risotto and filling has been used.

To make coating, put the flour on a plate, the beaten egg in a shallow dish and the breadcrumbs in another. Roll the arancine in the flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs until evenly coated. At this stage, they can be covered and left in the refrigerator for up to a day.

Het up oil or fat in a deep fryer to 180 degrees. Fry a few arancine at a time until coating is golden, around 3-5 minutes (mine were a bit quicker). Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. However, I have eaten them cold and they were also fine…depends on how fussy you are!

Saffron Series II: Saffron Risotto/ risotto allo zafferano

In Cheese, Main meals, Rice on July 29, 2012 at 9:55 am

As promised, here is the second of my saffron posts. I made this for lunch today to take to share with friends at uni. The recipe came from my risotto bible, Maxine Clark’s ‘Risotto with vegetables, seafood, meat and more.’ If you are a fan of risotto and haven’t yet seen it (which I find hard to believe) then you definitely should! Risotto isn’t that hard to make if you know how to do it, and all it takes is good quality ingredients for meal for an average meal to be turned into a sumptuous risotto. Clark’s recipe for saffron risotto was very simple, but it was truly divine – especially on a wet and windy Auckland afternoon/evening!



1 – 1.5 litres hot vegetable stock or light chicken stock

125 g butter

1 onion finely chopped

(I also always add 2 cloves of chopped garlic, or smoked garlic if I have it)

500g risotto rice (your choice, I always go with arborio)

150ml dry white wine (I just use a generous wine glass rather than measuring)

1/4 tsp ground saffron or 16 saffron threads

75g grated parmesan

salt and pepper


Put the stock in a saucepan and keep at a gentle simmer. Melt half the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and add the chopped onion and garlic, if using. Cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes, so the onions are soft, golden and translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir until well coated with butter and heated through. Pour in the wine and stir until it had reduced down and almost disappeared.

Add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring until the liquid has almost dissolved between each addition. Add the saffron after the first ladle. The risotto should be kept at a bare simmer throughout, don’t let the rice dry out! Continue cooking until the rice is tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm to the bite.

Taste and season well with salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining butter and add all the parmesan. Cover and let rest for a few minutes before serving, and add a little bit more stock to loosen it if you think it is necessary.



Pumpkin Gnocchi

In Egg, Main meals, Pasta on May 23, 2012 at 3:44 am

Making gnocchi is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while now. I’ve been wary of it in the past. As a teenager, my mum implanted this idea in my head that gnocchi were nasty and rubbery – not worth bothering about at all! But ever since I rekindled my interest in food and started reading food blogs, I noticed that gnocchi seemed to be quite popular. Then a few months ago when I got Jo Seagar’s Italia and saw her lovely rustic gnocchi, I knew the time had come – it was just a matter of when. My friend Theresa coming around for dinner (and my friend Amanda tomorrow) gave me the perfect excuse. Interestingly, I didn’t end up following Jo’s recipe but instead opted for a recipe I found on a blog I only recently discovered, Happyolks. The recipe is accompanied with a video and lovely photos – so you should definitely check it out! I went with this recipe simply because I had a pumpkin to use up, and liked the sound of pumpkin gnocchi rather than potato – though Jo offers a recipe for olive gnocchi that I just might need to try as well.

Anyway, the tips offered in the Happyolks recipe are good ones.  I think this was definitely a case of KNOW YOUR PUMPKIN. I actually used a mixture of two – the 99c quarter pumpkin from Pak’n’Save and half a butternut squash that I stole from Emma. I wasn’t really sure how much the two would make; at first I thought I would have too little, but I think in the end I had too much! I also probably didn’t have a fine enough sieve, because my pumpkin was still very moist and I couldn’t seem to get rid of the moisture. As a result, I had to add quite a bit more than the 2 cups of flour that the recipe suggests. However, the most difficult thing I found about the whole process was cutting the gnocchi to a uniform size! I’m sure there is a more efficient way than the way I did it; grabbing handfuls of dough, rolling into long sausages and cutting into sections of 1 inch with a ruler next to, cutting them down when they seemed to big as my dough sausages weren’t always that even. Anyway, if anyone has any tips about how to make this aspect of the process easier, do share!

I definitely have issues with cutting things to a uniform size. I’ve always been an eyeball it type of girl and that was a little counter productive in this case. The whole process took rather a long time, but in a very pleasant way. I managed to eat about a quarter of my gnocchi as I was cooking them so by the time it came to serve them I wasn’t all that hungry! Oops.

I served them with a basic buttery sauce, following the suggestion of the original recipe. Basically it was just a bit of olive oil and butter (I didn’t fuss about quantities) with a generous amount of washed thyme, cooked in the sauce to give it a bit of flavour. I then tossed the gnocchi in the butter until it was well coated and topped with grated parmesan. It was definitely a winning recipe for a cold winter’s night!

I was also worried about how the gnocchi would look once photographed. It’s true, gnocchi are not the mostly beautiful looking things to look at – but still, I highly recommend you all try them. Invest in the time – the recipe makes enough for several meals/servings, depending on how many are eating it. It is also something easily prepared in advance. They taste delicious – not at all rubbery and nasty like my mum led me to believe. Shame on you, Mum! I’ve been converted to a gnocchi fan.

Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel Gratin)

In Cheese, Garden, Main meals on May 6, 2012 at 8:34 am

A little while ago, my mother was kind enough to ‘give’/share with me Jo Seagar’s new Italian cookbook. In this book, Jo has definitely gone with a more upmarket approach and I must say, the cookbook really is beautiful! I was drawn to this particular recipe as the last two fennel bulbs in my garden were calling out to be eaten and I’m always curious about new ways to cook fennel. Plus now that winter appears to have well and truly set in over here….gratin just seemed wonderfully appealing!

I only had about half of the fennel required for the recipe, so I substituted some of the rest with celery and onion. I also might have altered some of the ingredient proportions to taste, but I can’t remember exactly what those were. But I’m guessing I probably added more butter 😉

The recipe is as follows:

3-4 fennel bulbs (about 750 g)

1 1/4 cups full cream milk

25 g butter

1 tbsp flour

salt and pepper

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated parmesan (though I didn’t have any and used tasty cheese – a crime, I know. So sue me)

Preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius (keep your own oven in mind, I dropped the temp to 200-190 for mine). Spray a small lasagne or casserole dish with cooking spray.

Chop off root ends and stalks of the fennel. Cut the bulb into quarters or thick slices. If using onion or celery like me, do the same for those. Place in a large saucepan and pour over the milk. Simmer for 10-15 mins or until fennel has softened. Strain, reserving the milk. Lay fennel in prepared dish.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and season. While whisking over medium heat, slowly add the milk. Stir until sauce thickens. Check seasoning – be generous (I might have been guilty of being under generous). Pour sauce over the fennel. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and parmesan. Bake for 20-25 mins or until nicely browned. It is supposed to serve 4-6 people.

Side note: I thought I’d try and be clever and use some of the leftover breadcrumb topping from the devilled eggs instead of making a new topping. Well, after 5 mins in that superhot oven, I got a whiff of the dreaded burning smell and had to whip the gratin out. I had forgotten that I’d made the original topping with oil and not butter, so it had all burned. I had to scrape that topping off and make a new one. That said, it still turned out fine….and it will teach me a a lesson about taking shortcuts! Anyway, that’s why there’s a few stray black breadcrumbs in the photo.